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Conception 2: Children of the Seven Stars review

AT A GLANCE
  • Great RPG fundamentals with clever additions
  • Interesting concept for monster collecting
  • Will please fans looking for racier content
  • Over-the-top fanservice
  • Not all that original

Conception 2: Children of the Seven Stars is its own worst enemy. It understands and improves upon the fundamentals of dungeon-crawling to make this an enjoyable new entry in the JRPG genre. Then it puts a damper on the fun by progressing the story via suggestive conversations with 17-year-old girls. The gratuitous dating sim sex appeal continually gets in the way of the role-playing action, holding back the game from true greatness no matter how well it executes the less-risque aspects.

Though the original Conception was never localized, Conception 2 is easy to get into without feeling like you’re missing key information. Mankind is rebuilding after armies of monsters laid waste to much of Earth, giving a dark backdrop to the more lighthearted proceedings. The protagonist, given the moniker God’s Gift, arrives at a high school that doubles as a training facility for demon hunters, and he and his school chums are quickly pulled into battle. It’s not entirely original, but it’s as good an excuse as any to fight your way through hordes of monsters in typical, Japanese role-playing style.

This setup is introduced at the same time as the more risque--and wholly unavoidable--story elements. The “Conception” in the title is literal, because God’s Gift magically creates demon-slaying Star Children with his young, female classmates. That's right: you hook up with young girls in a process referred to as Classmating to produce Pokemon-style warriors, clerics, and other battle-ready offspring. The on-screen ritual briefly shows the couple holding hands before it cuts away to a new Star Child popping out of a Russian nesting doll, and the script gets a lot of mileage by implying what’s really going on during this sacred rite. But this all has a deeper purpose beyond some quick gags. Each woman imparts different attributes to the Star Child she creates, which gives players more options for specializing their personal team of dungeon runners.

Conception 2 is at its best when you're exploring dungeons, fighting alongside these tykes in battle. The game is bursting with randomly generated, multi-floor Labyrinths for genre devotees to dive into, and the gameplay’s style will be especially familiar to anyone who has played recent Persona and Shin Megami Tensei RPGs. Conception 2 borrows heavily and rather blatantly from those specific games, especially the battle interface, the offbeat enemy designs, and those games’ approach to dungeon layout. Even so, Conception 2 understands those concepts beyond a surface level, subtly tweaking those mechanics to enrich its gameplay in similar ways that still stands out from pretty much every other JRPG.

For all its influences, Conception 2 adds a number of its own smart additions that are steadily revealed over the campaign. You must strategically place your team around enemies, choosing whether to safely attack their weak points or face the beasts head-on to quickly charge up bonus attacks. The risk/reward at play adds tactical density to random battles, sidestepping the repetition that’s usually associated with average enemy encounters. You also have a ton of options for building teams that take time and nuance to properly craft, rewarding players that study Conception 2's many systems. Even exploring the overworld has novel ideas to experiment with, like finding new items in the shop, investigating potential side quests in the lab, or discovering new dangers in previously beaten dungeons. The more you play, the more you see of Conception’s hidden depth.

A downside to all that nuance is that it requires a lot of explanation. Right from the start you’ll have dozens of tutorials thrown at you to describe Conception’s many special qualities. These long text guides are necessary, in particular for people less familiar with JRPGs--though even experienced players will suffer a barrage of explanation throughout the first few hours. Stick with it long enough and you’ll learn by doing, eventually incorporating the once-daunting information into your playstyle.

Outside of the dungeons, the racier half of Conception 2’s content will be the make-or-break point for most players. The game requires you to befriend a handful of cute girls, like Nariko, the timid-yet-buxom student leader, and Serina, who looks distressingly young despite technically being older than the protagonist. It objectifies the women to an extent, via increasingly intimate conversations and gift giving until they like you enough to take the relationship to the next level, which in turn creates stronger Star Children to take into battle. It’ll please a certain demographic that’s looking to engage in sensual minigames with virtual teens, but it really hurts Conception 2 in the long run. These lengthy, objectionable sections don’t invalidate the straightforward RPG action within, but many players will be pushed away the moment they engage in conversation--one packed with inappropriate boob jokes--with a high school girl.

The unfortunate fact is that Conception’s two genres go hand-in-hand. To get the most out of dungeon gameplay, or to simply progress the story, you’re going to have to do your best to get friendly with the game’s virtual ladies. You’ll hear numerous awkward jokes about some characters’ breast sizes, see the cliched perverted-old-man trope pop-up unwantedly, and be treated to numerous shots of the leads in skimpy outfits--all in the name of fighting the boss of the next Labyrinth. If that’s what you’re into, have at it, but it’s a lot to ask of some players that prefer better-than-average JRPGs to treat women with a little more respect.

More Info

Release date: Apr 15 2014 - 3DS, PS Vita (US)
May 15 2014 - 3DS
May 14 2014 - PS Vita (UK)
Available Platforms: 3DS, PS Vita
Genre: Role Playing
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Fantasy Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Mild Blood

There’s no separating Conception 2’s more prurient aspects from its entertaining RPG action, but in the end the dungeon crawling is slightly more enjoyable than the fanservice is bothersome.

This game was reviewed on PS Vita.

28 comments

  • otto-rehbinder - July 27, 2014 2:31 a.m.

    I do not see it really as sexist or wrong,but I understand for some people this is weird. Think about the closer you ( wake, gods gift) are to one girl your star children get stronger I think it is justifiable, since you usually get "conception" with someone you are really really close with ( wife or husband). But I agree some things might be tacky and sexualiced. But they technically do not have sex just hold hands and think of each other , and that is why it is rated M. And there convos are at first mostly shy but as they have more affinity with each other most of them are ok with it
  • RecessiveGeneSimmons - April 15, 2014 2:32 p.m.

    I'm surprised people are giving Henry grief for his very diplomatic review of this game. You conceive children w/ sexualized underage girls--I'm pretty sure the government puts you on a list when you purchase this game.
  • Trollkitten - April 16, 2014 3:46 p.m.

    If they don't, they should -- and that's coming from a conservative who wants the NSA held accountable for its infringement on America's privacy.
  • Shioxus - April 17, 2014 4:33 a.m.

    Lol yeah that would never happen. There are companies that release official US releases of things called "visual novels" that have explicit sexual scenes (animated porn really) of high school age girls, and some of them even depict girls that don't look any older than 13. If those get official, legal releases, then why would this game get you put on a list lol?
  • n00b - April 15, 2014 1:59 p.m.

    But Over-the-top fanservice isn't a bad thing. Just look at all the marvel movies giving exactly what fans want
  • Trollkitten - April 16, 2014 3:46 p.m.

    Well. the Marvel movies, at least those which I have watched, don't define "fanservice" as "sluttiness."
  • ObliqueZombie - April 16, 2014 9:36 p.m.

    Anime or JRPG fanservice is in its own definition. Same spelling, same sounds, entirely different meaning--a homonym of sorts.
  • n00b - April 17, 2014 7:33 a.m.

    Not really fanservice is giving fans what they want or simply fulfilling its premise. When i go to a marvel movie i want to see super heroes doing super hero stuff. When i go see a monster horror movie i want to see a monster killing ppl. When i go see a saw type movie i want to see creative gore. When i go see the raid i want to see crazy brutal action. When i go see august osage county i want to see a dysfunctional family bickering with each other. Apparently this game does a good job at what it sets out to do so why knock if for that. Do people complain about South Park being too vulgar? No that's what they want from South Park.
  • ObliqueZombie - April 17, 2014 9:19 a.m.

    Very true, fan service is pleasing the fans. HOWEVER, I was saying that the term "fanservice" when regarding anime is stereotypically scantically clad animated women, usually of young age, shown in provocative situations, usually unintentional to them. But you're right about this game. This game does set out to intentionally laden it with "fanservice" even though there are little fans at all. It's just a negative connotation relating this type of media, and a tad silly to knock this game for it as this is what it set out to do. But Leisure Larry would befall the same score and critique. It's tasteless either way.
  • n00b - May 5, 2014 3:14 a.m.

    true but leisure suit larry games tend to be driven primarily by its writing/promise of boobs and not much gameplay where as conception is a competent dungeon crawler rpg with indepth crafting type mechanics besides its romance side quests.
  • Kyo - April 15, 2014 12:42 p.m.

    ...... I'm going to have to stop coming to this site. I'm sick of these anti fanservice articles or gripes. I don't want to be told a game called Conception II has too much god damn fanservice or that it "objectifies" women. I'm sick of this feminism BS taking over the internet. :/ Ah well this site was fun for a long time.. guess that's good enough.
  • Trollkitten - April 16, 2014 3:48 p.m.

    As a woman, I feel an innate urge to argue with you on this subject, but as a virgin, I have no idea what the heck to say without losing said second status.
  • Trollkitten - April 17, 2014 7:03 a.m.

    Let's just say that if you were a woman yourself, you would probably feel VERY differently on this subject. We are NOT objects to be ogled over, and any of us who think we are, just aren't worth the time to build a serious relationship with, assuming anyone even wants such a thing in this day and age.
  • RebornKusabi - April 15, 2014 10:30 a.m.

    Aw, look at you getting all "Social Justice Warrior" on a game called CONCEPTION. I hope you get this cavalier about violent content in the next game you review.
  • GR_HenryGilbert - April 15, 2014 10:43 a.m.

    You don't have to wait that long to see me complain about excessive violence in games. I already did it before it was cool http://www.gamesradar.com/im-little-tired-being-murderer/
  • GR_HenryGilbert - April 15, 2014 10:59 a.m.

    Plus, I gotta work hard if I want to stay on this list http://imgur.com/NFGgOEU?tags
  • bobob101 - April 15, 2014 11:18 a.m.

    I have 2 questions for you Henry. One, imagine that this game didn't have any of its dating sim trappings, where you don't have to read through Japanese cliches about anime girls. How might you have scored the game then? Secondly, who was your Waifu? I am very much on the fence about this game, because I love deep JRPGs. And I will admit that the "conception" part of this game is a bit of a turn off. I do believe that over in Japan, this kind of stuff probably helps the game sell even more copies. Is there any validity to this thought?
  • RebornKusabi - April 15, 2014 12:14 p.m.

    So basically, to get good mature story telling between men and women, boys and girls, in a jRPG keep playing the Shin Megami Tensei games. I have the game and plan to play during my lunch breaks but I think the game's sex appeal angle could have been handled better and not end up like it appears it did.
  • profile0000 - April 15, 2014 1:19 p.m.

    Atta' boy, Henry. Be proud. I think it's much better to be on that list than be on a list of "Bigot Misogynist Videogame Journalists to Avoid."
  • RebornKusabi - April 15, 2014 12:07 p.m.

    I know you did. I was honestly teasing and I guess that didn't come across well so my bad. Also that list is retarded...

Showing 1-20 of 28 comments

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